Ernst Miesgang’s sculptures are replicas of human or animals’ organs found inside ceramic based mass produced collectibles. The membrane covering the heart for example exposes areas full of anatomical components sprouting out. They are disturbing and yet amusing. While they may seem gory and ghastly at times, they are inscribed with scientific truth downplayed by its ludic and amusing appeal. They are precious and their rather small size instigate a feeling in the region of affection. This response is immediately supplanted by a sense of being in the presence of something abject, when confronted with the overflowing guts and internal organs as if you’d open a door which once opened cannot be closed anymore. I see what I am not supposed to see. Immaculately executed, as science would require and exhibited in this way, on white plinths they become curiosity provoking specimens – items befitting a museological space; members of a class of like objects. This chosen method of display only enhances Miesgang’s direct interest in scientific truth and his work undertaken within the last years, is in his own words, ‘a homage to science’, inscribed in the sculptures and collages displayed here.
These decorative objects entered the common imaginair somewhere after WWII which those of us brought up in Central Europe and Eastern and, especially if you happen to come from a working or lower middle class family, like I do, remember the exotic animals, the ballerina, the bride and the groom or the Chinese lady (we in Romania got this a lot… sometimes you go to someone’s house and they would have two identical Chinese ladies or more. They were so many of them when I was growing up that to my mind it was the Romanians who invented them).
As kitsch, these are quintessential objects of ideology. Gustave Flaubert decided as much on Kitsch as the organising principle for his book Madam Bovary, for which the cultural ‘geist’ was captured exclusively through the fleeting trends and shallow affective character of the popular and sentimentalist art of his day. (It is worth mentioning that while the main character Emma Bovary was too modern for her time, she also read romantic literature in her youth.) The Chinese lady of my upbringing traverses Flaubert’s romantic novels and mannerist hand made statues of his 19th century, winding up as the epitome of 20th Century kitsch for which the ‘mechanical reproducibility’ has culminated in a veritable abyss of kitsch production. The unassuming brevity of the term ‘post-fordist’ appears designed to allay the mental (and ethical) exhaustion of trying to conceive of the terrifying scale and force of production and its counterparts, in our historical moment.
These Kitsch objects of my youth were the next best thing to an original, indicators of taste, and hence, of social status. This “disembowelment” performed on these objects by Miesgang, the sometimes halving of the object to creating a cross section, as if operating with a skapell on a dissecting table, satisfies a perverse curiosity; the desire to comprehend the hidden mechanics of a gadget, or perhaps the meaning of graphics in the financial times or how a whole infrastructure works. This desire mixed with anxiety seems in tune with the urgency demanded by our times, marked by, amongst other things, the very real possibility of extinction. Extinction of the species, the final countdown if it’s to follow the biologist Lynn Margulis’s speculation: ‘a species only progresses successfully according to evolutionary rules when it develops towards its own self-destruction.’
In 2016 Miesgang started the series of collages titled Critters. He explained to me his working method which implies dozens of litter newspapers with the same date, which he collects from European cities he finds himself in. Some images or shapes he finds attractive are ripped off by hand and then glued together to create these in between anatomical details and underwater formations created in the dark. Again, as in his sculptures, I’d like to suggest that we are presented with something we are not supposed to see but which is nevertheless part of our environment. The cardboards on which these collages are made force in their own history since they actually are the backsides of paintings or photographs he had found in the flee markets of Vienna, where he lives and works. Miegang’s collages can take different shapes but the one exhibited here stands out. It is a reminisce of a franc-masonic logo or some kind of esoteric sect. It is a signifier of the times are all experiencing at the moment, a depressing post 2008 era for Europe, where sadly we have been noticing an increased need to engage in essentialist and populist narratives.
Because these cardboards are so precious they actually determine the working method to a certain extend since one cannot start all over again as you’d do with an easily replaceable canvas. Like in the sculptures, where there is no definite control over how the cracks will turn out, the cardboards with their stains and traces of time are incorporated in the process making and impact the final outcome allowing for the contingency to play a significant role.
Ernst Miesgang ‚hackt’ den Apparat des mobilen Dokumentenscanners, indem er der eingebauten Elektronik kontinuierliche Scanabläufe vortäuscht. Auf diese Weise wird eine Entkoppelung von Zeit und Entfernung möglich: Die Breite der resultierenden Bilder ist vordefiniert, die Länge hingegen von der Dauer des Scanprozesses abhängig. Im Screening wird die Hautoberfläche der Modelle Zeile für Zeile eingelesen; auf diese Weise rekonfigurieren sich die abgetasteten Gesichter, Gliedmaßen und Hände, die in Leuchttischen zu Fragmenten eines Leihkörpers werden. Obwohl scheinbar persönliche Narben/glitches aufgenommen und in Schautafeln, die an jene der Biologie der Jahrhundertwende erinnern, arrangiert werden, treten uns keine erkennbaren Individuen entgegen. Dem Instrument haftet etwas alltagskulturelles wie überwachungstechnisches an; die Anwendung bei Miesgang produziert einen Effekt, der häufig in Zusammenhang mit kuriosen und magischen Praktiken gebracht wird. Hier findet das rhetorische Stilmittel des ‚Grotesken’ Einsatz: grottesco ist das italienische Wort für ‚verzerrt’ und meint bei Miesgang fantastisch beschaffene Ornamente sowie das Grauenerregende, das sich dem Kanon klassizistischer Ästhetik widersetzt. Wie bei Slitscan Photography überträgt sich das Groteske gleich einer visuellen Grenzverschiebungstrope auf den Körper. Deformationen, Verzerrungen und Verfremdung lassen an halluzinogene Trance als Verunsicherung eines bestimmten Subjektbegriffs denken. Schließlich verleiht das Scannen den Körperteilen etwas Gespenstiges und wir werden uns der unheimlichen Komponente des Sehens bewusst: Ist es ein rasches Scannen, Überfliegen, Querlesen, Abtasten – oder ein genaues Studieren?